The After Coal project has facilitated an exchange between former mining communities in South Wales and coal communities in east Kentucky this fall. On October 27 and 28, Richard Davies from the media program at Merthyr Tydfill College presented to youth in Letcher and Harlan Counties in Kentucky. Here are a few photos from his visit.
In East Kentucky, Harlan Daily Enterprise reporter Jennifer McDaniels writes about next weeks Arts and Youth forum sponsored by the After Coal project.
Arts And Youth Forum To Be Held At SKCTC Harlan Campus
As Harlan County works to diversify its local economy, a number of community and educational groups are working to ensure that the decline in the coal industry will not gravely impact the area’s sustainability. A partnership between the grassroots group The Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and Appalachian State University has generated a series of public forums in eastern Kentucky that have tackled this issue and generated dialogue concerning the future after coal. One of these planned forums is scheduled in conjunction with Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College on Tuesday night at the Harlan Campus.
An Arts and Youth Forum will be open to the public Tuesday night and will feature special speaker Richard Davies of Wales, who directs the media program at Merthyr Tydfill College in a former South Wales mining town. Davies will present work created by his students and share lessons learned converting an old town hall in Wales into an arts center for the college. Local youth have also been invited to take part in this exchange. Students with SKCTC’s “Higher Ground” will be present at Tuesday’s forum to showcase their work.
Tom Hansell of the Center For Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University said questions will be posed that should set the stage for much needed dialogue in coalfield communities like Harlan County.
“What role can young people play in reinventing their communities, and can eastern Kentucky learn from the experiences of other coal mining regions? This is just an example of some of the conversation that will be facilitated Tuesday night.”
The coalfields of South Wales shut down 30 years ago, and former mining towns were forced to diversify their economy. According to Hansell, as central Appalachian coal employment continues to decline, many are looking to Wales for ideas. Tuesday’s Arts And Youth Forum is the third in a series of forums that have been held throughout eastern Kentucky this fall. A Homegrown Tourism forum was held in Elkhorn City in September, and a Sustainable Development forum was held in Whitesburg earlier this month.
Tuesday’s Arts And Youth forum begins at 6 pm in the theater of SKCTC’s Harlan Campus. A reception welcoming Davies, as well as Harlan County candidates vying for local political offices, will be held at the campus at 5 pm. Refreshments will be served, and candidates are encouraged to attend for a public “meet and greet” before the start of the forum.
The series of fall forums has been supported by a grant from the Chorus Foundation.
by Angela Wiley
After a car ride through the fall colors of Appalachia, I found my way to Whitesburg, Kentucky where the lobby of Appalshop Inc was full of community members, snacks and good conversation. The After Coal project teamed up with staff at Appalshop and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth to organize a forum to discuss policies for sustainable community development. Honored guests Mair Francis and Hywel Francis traveled from Wales to eastern Kentucky to share information about the cornucopia of community and government supported initiatives that have been tested in former mining communities of South Wales.
Mair and Hywel Francis were joined by WMMT-FM staff Elizabeth Sanders, After Coal director Tom Hansell and Panelists Evan Smith from the Appalachian Citizens Law Center and Robin Gabbard from the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky . The group watched short film clips and discussed how to create healthy communities after coal mines close. The first question from the audience, about finding and hanging on to hope in hard times, set the mood for a discussion rooted in desires, but also in reality.
Hywel and Mair Francis discussed three areas vital to community regeneration: investment in education, environmental reclamation, and locally controlled community funds. Evan Smith discussed the potential to use funds from the federal abandoned mine lands fund for community development, and Robin Gabbard explained how the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky helped provide educational opportunities for the regions youth.
Hywel and Mair acknowledged that there is a long road for communities in South Wales to recover from the industry collapse. “The great defining moment, really, was thirty years ago when we had the great miners’ strike of ’84-’85…we had to develop a new sense of community” reflected Hywel. In eastern Kentucky, and in many pockets of the southern Appalachian mountains, communities are just starting to talk about a life after coal through. In the United States, funding mechanisms for community based solutions may look different — but the attitudes and efforts required to build resilient communities after coal are not nationally determined. Through this visit from Hywel and Mair Francis, forum participants were able to ask the panel and themselves difficult questions about sustainable solutions for Appalachian mining communities.
The community forum in Whitesburg, KY is the second of three forums featuring the work of the After Coal project. A forum to discuss the role of youth and the arts in community regeneration will be held October 28 on the campus of Southeastern Kentucky Community and Technical College in Harlan, KY.